When the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Frederik Andersen and immediately signed him to a five-year, $25 million contract, it was a hot-button topic to say the least (as most things Toronto are).
Now, four games into the Freddie Anderson era with the Leafs, it’s ... more of a hot-button issue. In the games he has played for Toronto, the Leafs have one win and three losses (all in overtime or the shootout), and have given up 15 goals in the process. That’s not good.
#Leafs are the 1st team since the 2002-03 Thrashers to with 18 or more goals in their first 5 games of a season, yet get just 1 win or fewer— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) October 23, 2016
When a team allows 15 goals in four games, you ask several questions. Is it the defense leaving Andersen out to dry? Is it the goaltender and his angles or his rebounds? Is it bad luck? Is it all of the above? Let’s take a look at the goals that Andersen and the Leafs have allowed and see what kind of answers we can provide to those questions.
Breaking down the goals
Four games for Andersen, 15 goals allowed, and one win. Let’s start with the first game and go from there.
Senators 5, Maple Leafs 4 (OT)
The game that will go down in history as the night that Auston Matthews scored four goals in his NHL debut ... and the Maple Leafs lost anyway. Toronto held a 3-2 lead, and also a 4-3 lead. Ottawa tied the game in the third period before winning it in overtime.
On the first Senators goal, an Erik Karlsson point shot came from the blue line, and Bobby Ryan fought his way to a 50/50 puck and put it past Andersen.
Verdict: Rebound wasn’t the issue. Awful defense in front, losing the 50/50 battle.
Karlsson takes another shot from the blue line, which takes a deflection on its way to the net, bounces off the ice, and over Andersen’s shoulder. Nothing he could have done on this one.
Verdict: Awful luck.
This next one gives us a little bit of both worlds: a lack of defense and a terrible goal for Andersen to allow. Derick Brassard works his way down the boards, pushing his way past Martin Marincin and beating Andersen through the five-hole. That can’t happen.
Verdict: Soft defense, but ultimately a bad goal to be allowed.
A major defensive breakdown leads to Kyle Turris with a world of time and space to shoot the puck. Andersen nearly caught it with his shoulder, and even did catch a piece of it, but it was a goal, nonetheless. Perhaps Andersen was challenging out a bit too far, but you just can’t give a shooter like Turris that much space to work in.
Verdict: A combination of a bad defensive breakdown, as well as Andersen being too aggressive.
It’s overtime and Turris ends it with a rocket of a shot. Matthews gets caught up ice and is late coming back. Turris gets the puck on a platter, blows it past Andersen, and the game is over.
Verdict: Matthews losing Turris in the neutral zone.
Maple Leafs 3, Bruins 1
A Maple Leafs victory, plan the parade, right? But in all seriousness, this is the type of game that the Leafs should be content with. One goal allowed, and a power-play goal that was really nice.
A nice zone entry on the power play by John-Michael Liles sets up David Pastrnak for a one-timer that Andersen could do nothing about. Beauty of a goal, and one that the Leafs and any other team would allow in the same situation.
Verdict: Just a nice power-play goal.
Jets 5, Maple Leafs 4 (OT)
"Anything you can do, I can do better, but actually just one goal shy of being the same." - Patrik Laine. Really, he said this. Definitely don’t look it up or fact-check it, just trust me. This was a stunner of a game, in which the Leafs stormed out to a 4-0 lead, only to have the Jets tie it 4-4 late in the game. Laine recorded two goals en route to tying the game and finished off his hat trick in OT after a Matthews breakaway was saved by Michael Hutchinson.
Halfway through the game and a 4-0 lead, what could go wrong? The Jets find themselves in a 2-on-1, and Mark Scheifele feeds Tyler Myers, who puts it in the net with a nice shot. Tough spot for Andersen.
Verdict: A perfectly executed 2-on-1. Perhaps a defensive breakdown led to the odd-man rush, but the defenseman covered the pass well, forcing the cross-ice pass to Myers.
Patrik Laine Beast Mode Time. Literally nothing anyone could do about this. I'm not sure any goaltender in the league would save this. Through traffic, through sticks, and over the shoulder and head of Andersen, right under the bar. Just incredible.
Verdict: Ridiculous goal for Laine.
This one feels like a mix of a tough spot for Andersen and him being a bit too aggressive. A shot from the point doesn’t make it through. The bad luck part of this is how it falls right to Scheifele. But if Andersen hadn’t been challenging so much, he may have been deeper in the net to try to make a save.
Verdict: Half bad luck with the puck landing where it did, half over aggressiveness.
Andersen gets no pass from me on this one. There’s less than a minute left in the game and all you need to do is hold on. Why are you challenging the shot from Nikolaj Ehlers so aggressively? His fake-shot followed by the pass to Laine leaves him the entire net to shoot at with no one even in the lane to challenge him.
Verdict: Plain and simple, too aggressive.
The 3-on-3 situations are always interesting. Matthews had the game on his stick and Hutchinson came up big. Dustin Byfuglien set Laine and the Jets up for success with a nice breakout pass, and Laine finished it off doing what he does. More like Hat-trick Laine, am I right?
Verdict: Despite it being a 2-on-1, I wouldn’t consider this a defensive breakdown, and would just call it a good goal.
Blackhawks 5, Maple Leafs 4 (SO)
A nice move from Artemi Panarin to create the rush up ice, but where in the world was Matt Hunwick and what was he doing?
Verdict: Combination of a good goal and a bad defense.
Tyler Motte made a nice play in front to get on a quick "rebound," but I think it was more of a quick tip than anything. Motte made a nice play to get it back on net, but the question is why no one was in front to cover him.
Verdict: Bad defensive coverage.
This was a textbook "pass off the pads" from Brian Campbell. It fell right into the high-scoring area and Artem Anisimov did a good job of getting to that space.
Verdict: Brutal rebound, followed by a bad job of boxing out Anisimov.
How does this happen?!? pic.twitter.com/7pxJIydrZR— Draglikepull (@draglikepull) October 23, 2016
This is a serious and fair question. Yes, the Blackhawks had the net emptied for an extra attacker, but how in the world, as defensemen, do you allow not one, but two Blackhawks players to set up shop in Andersen’s face with no challenging at all? This is beyond unacceptable.
Verdict: Total defensive liabilities.
Panarin SO goal. Look how much net is there from puck's perspective, and for how long. Andersen backs in too far too fast, gives up net. pic.twitter.com/VqdtyJM4od— Paul Campbell (@WayToGoPaul) October 23, 2016
In the shootout, especially, you could see Andersen overplaying his angles, or challenging too aggressively.
If you freeze the frame right before Panarin releases his shot, look at the space available for him.
Verdict: It’s difficult to compare the flow of regular play vs. the shootout, but here, it seems like Andersen wanted to come out and challenge, but then decided to fall back, and got caught in no man’s land.
After seeing all 15 goals (plus the one shootout goal), and assigning "blame" by each category, here is how the results break down:
|Bad defense or defensive breakdowns||6 times|
|Bad goal allowed by Andersen||1 time|
|Bad rebound by Andersen leading directly to a goal||1 time|
|Andersen being too aggressive or indecisive||4 times|
|Bad luck or bad bounces||2 times|
|No one at fault or to blame, good goal by the opponent||5 times|
It likely seems like Andersen has been "bad" or that a majority of the 15 goals that have gone into his net have been his fault, but it’s easy to see why there is more to the story than just the goal totals.
Here's my report on Andersen. Way too far outside of his crease being way too aggressive. Relying only on size and not on save skill. https://t.co/YWCrY8yPor— Martin Biron (@martybiron43) October 20, 2016
How to fix the problem? I’m not sure. Right now, it feels like Andersen’s big problems are his indecisiveness and aggressiveness. It’s been said that the Leafs' goaltender coaches want their goalies to be aggressive, and it appears that Andersen is not yet comfortable in that role or being that type of goaltender. He’s not giving up "bad goals," just making some bad decisions and putting himself in bad positions.
Time will tell with the Leafs, as the defense can be shored up, and Andersen can make some better saves. But ultimately, I think the Leafs have two options:
- Deal with the growing pains while Andersen becomes comfortable being a more aggressive netminder
- Let Freddie be Freddie and let him play the way he wants to play.
If I were the Leafs, I would let Freddie be Freddie.